- Caleb Walsh illustration
Early Sunday morning, 49 people were murdered at a crowded gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
Any additional description I am capable of providing leads to mere redundancy. Of course it was a senseless, enraging, tragic and heartbreaking act.
Heartfelt sentiments filled the evening news and social media as we collectively struggled to find the words to respond. And then Lin-Manuel Miranda took the stage at the Tony Awards, delivering a brief sonnet:
My wife's the reason anything gets done
She nudges me towards promise by degrees
She is a perfect symphony of one
Our son is her most beautiful reprise.
We chase the melodies that seem to find us
Until they're finished songs and start to play
When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
That nothing here is promised, not one day.
This show is proof that history remembers
We lived through times when hate and fear seemed stronger;
We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.
I sing Vanessa's symphony, Eliza tells her story
Now fill the world with music, love and pride.
Miranda is the creator of the Broadway sensation Hamilton, which tells the story of America's first treasury secretary in a style that takes hip-hop to Shakespearian heights. Before winning 11 Tonys on Sunday evening, he and the show had already become cultural touchstones.
The brief performances he and the cast perform for people trying to get tickets for Hamilton given out by lottery have boasted larger audiences than many other Broadway shows. Miranda has freestyled to prompts provided by President Obama in the Rose Garden and rapped on John Oliver's Last Week Tonight about the need for financial support for Puerto Rico.
So Miranda was already well on his way to being crowned America's unofficial poet laureate, but his sonnet sealed the deal. It was simultaneously personal, intimate and universal — as the best art always is.
It captures our grief and reminds us that the opposite of someone hating you is not you hating him; it's love. The love we feel for each other — whether for our spouse or 49 people in Orlando we've never met and their friends, family and community.
It's not a new lesson — universal truths rarely are — but a reminder and an inspiration to act. For love must be realized in more than poetry; love must be actualized in action.
It's a lesson that is also the central theme of Hamilton. Alexander Hamilton was, in the words of Miranda, "young, hungry and scrappy" just like his country. He wasn't going to throw away his shot to take a stand and make a difference. His antagonist in life and now musical theater was Aaron Burr, a man who consistently avoided taking a position on nearly everything.
The arts can provide us with inspiration (and that is no small gift), but it is up to each of us to then take action. So let us learn from Miranda and his Hamilton. Let us fight for legislation to protect LGBT people and protect all of our communities from violence. Let us stand up to bigotry — whenever, wherever and however we can.
For in the words of Benjamin Franklin, a founding father oddly absent from Hamilton, "We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."♦
John T. Reuter, a former Sandpoint City Councilman, has been active in protecting the environment, expanding LGBT rights and Idaho's Republican Party politics.